Latest News and Comment from Education

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Feds Awarded Colorado Charter Schools $46 Million Because of "Hiring and Firing" Rules | PR Watch

Feds Awarded Colorado Charter Schools $46 Million Because of "Hiring and Firing" Rules | PR Watch:

Feds Awarded Colorado Charter Schools $46 Million because of "Hiring and Firing" Rules

Between 2010 and 2015, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) awarded Colorado $46 million under the Charter Schools Program. Part of the reason the state landed the competitive grant was that charters are free to hire unlicensed teachers and then fire them at will, documents reviewed by CMD show.
Designed to create and expand “high-quality” charter schools, the quarter-billion-dollar-a-year program has been repeatedly criticized by the watchdogs at the department's Office of the Inspector General watchdog for suspected waste and poor financial controls.
Two weeks ago, CMD revealed that there are currently nationwide probes underway into closed charter schools and the “lack of accountability” within the program.
As Congress stands poised to reauthorize the program—and quite possibly expand it by 48 percent—ED has deflected all criticism. It has told stakeholders that while it has stepped up its monitoring activities and efforts to hold states accountable, it is mainly “the responsibility of states to make sure they develop and submit plans” to ensure that the federal millions end up in classrooms rather than missing in action.
Well, do they? CMD continues its investigation by taking a closer look at the reality on the ground. First out is Colorado.

Seeking "Non-Certified Personnel"

When Colorado applied for the competitive grant in 2010, four out of five reviewers contracted by ED to score the application raised concerns about the lack of oversight and accountability, especially when it came to charter school authorizers:
  • “There is no detail on how authorizers are monitored.”
  • “[I]t is not clear what step will be taken to hold authorizers accountable.”
  • “The response could be strengthened by providing more detail to ways in which authorizers will be held accountable.”
  • “The states[!] plan for evaluation of changes in authorizer practices is limited to self-reporting of improved policies.”
But this was more than made up for by what the reviewers considered to be a strong plan for how charters would improve student achievement, and the “flexibility” charter schools enjoy under Colorado law. One reviewer, for example, enthused over schools having complete autonomy when it comes to “hiring and firing,” employing “non-certified personnel, and not abiding by union agreements.

Colorado Education Department Pushes Back against Oversight

The Schools of Choice Office (SOC) at the Colorado Department of Education is responsible for managing the CSP grants by vetting the charter schools applying, and by making sure that those awarded money comply with federal guidelines during the whole grant cycle. The Office is also tasked with developing guidelines for charter school applications, and with collecting and compiling data on school performance.
CMD’s review of emails obtained through an open records request does not, however, show an independent agency judiciously reviewing grant applications as much as an office rewarding grants on a whim, and pushing for even less
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Lessons from New Orleans: 'Don't Copy' - On California - Education Week

Lessons from New Orleans: 'Don't Copy' - On California - Education Week:

Lessons from New Orleans: 'Don't Copy' 

I went to New Orleans to see if its 10-year experience with charter schools and market-based school choice had application to Los Angeles.  I came away with the admonition of my 4th Grade teacher ringing in my ears: Do your own work; don't copy.
In other words, context matters.  A lot.  It's not just that L.A. is 12 times larger than New Orleans, or that we haven't yet had a natural disaster, or that we have five times as many charter schools with three times as many students.  The two cities are profoundly different, and that difference shapes how to interpret the New Orleans results, which are being represented as the leading edge of school reform.
Unprecedented Changes
Doug Harris.jpgWithout doubt New Orleans' changes are historically unprecedented.  The Recovery School District, which controls most schools, represents most radical school reform in a century, and the most complete example of a "portfolio" school district.  Some 93% of the schools are charters, open enrollment exists throughout the city, and the data show that students and their parents are active choosers.  About 86% percent of students attend a school other than the one closest to their home.
New Orleans schools educate about the same number of students as Oakland, Sacramento, or Garden Grove in California.  A decade after Hurricane Katrina, enrollments have risen to 46,457, about 70% of their pre-storm level.  About 84% of the students are African-American.  Before the storm, enrollments stood at 66,372, 93% of whom were African-American.  Still, fully 25% of students in New Orleans attend private school, the highest non-public school-going rate among large cities in the country.  Private school enrollments are about 50% white.
Student achievement gains were trumpeted at a conference sponsored by the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans (ERA).  Graduation rates have gone up, the numbers of students going to schools labeled as "failing" has gone down, and performance on the state's standardized tests has increased.  While the significance of these changes is open to intense discussion and debate, including whether the new regime "juked" the stats (see this on failing and excelling schools), it's clear that outcomes are moving in the right direction.  There is intense excitement and pride among the civic elite.
But the theme of the conference was not whether the New Orleans transformation worked in its city of origin, but whether it represents "the urban education of the future."  Douglas Harris, Tulane University economist and president of the ERA (pictured above), argues that the effects of New Orleans' reforms are relevant and significant to other cities, such as Detroit, and the rest of the country.
Harris makes the point that politicians from different ends of the spectrum—from Barack Obama to Bobby Jindal—have lauded the reforms based on technocratic management, weakened teacher unions, and the relentless focus on output data.  The same big foundations that put money into New Orleans are transporting its "proof of concept" throughout the country.  Indeed, several states areconsidering creating charter districts.
I was interested in New Orleans in part because it has decentralized and that it has tried to find a path using autonomous operating groups of schools.  LAUSD, which has struggled with decentralization for decades, has five times as many autonomous schools as New Orleans if one counts both charters and Pilot schools, but autonomous operation hasn't become "the system."
In Learning from L.A., I wrote about creating autonomous networks of schools as a way of accomplishing decentralization, and, certainly, the civic elite in Los Angeles embraced charters in the wake of its frustration with the last decentralization effort in the 1990s.  In recent posts, I recalled my advocacy of network organization as a way to transform LAUSD.
Political Trash Talk
But my takeaway lessons were not to embrace the package of reforms that New Orleans Lessons from New Orleans: 'Don't Copy' - On California - Education Week:

Sacramento city schools to roll out ethnic studies pilot beginning 2016 - Sacramento News & Review -

Sacramento News & Review - Sacramento city schools to roll out ethnic studies pilot beginning 2016 - Beats - Local Stories - June 25, 2015:

Sacramento city schools to roll out ethnic studies pilot beginning 2016

Proposal cited minority students’ lack of engagement with high school literature, history classes

The fourth most diverse school district in the nation is finally adding an ethnic studies graduation requirement—in 2020.
The Sacramento City Unified School District's Board of Trustees unanimously approved the proposal from its Student Advisory Council on June 4. The proposal will create an ethnic studies pilot program for fall 2016.
In collaboration with community organizations, local university professors and college students, the council cited research that minority students feel culturally disconnected from the standard curriculum in high school classes, particularly in literature and history classes. Students also reported little interaction between different ethnic groups on campus.
Approximately 80 percent of district students identify as students of color. There's also a significant English-learner population—with at least 44 recognized languages—and large European immigrant populations to boot.
Jonathan Tran, an organizer with Hmong Innovating Politics and a past school board candidate, worked on the ethnic studies campaign. He said such courses improve campus climate and graduation rates.
“Students begin to see themselves in the curriculum,” he said. “They become more invested in the subject they're studying.”
In a last-minute amendment to the proposal, the new requirement will be monitored by the district's High Sacramento News & Review - Sacramento city schools to roll out ethnic studies pilot beginning 2016 - Beats - Local Stories - June 25, 2015:

EFFECTIVE teachers are continually learning and DEVELOPING | WagTheDog

EFFECTIVE teachers are continually learning and DEVELOPING | WagTheDog:

EFFECTIVE teachers are continually learning and DEVELOPING

The dictionary says developing means to grow, advance, and mature. In NY State a  teacher rated developing is not considered to be effective and a teacher improvement plan (TIP) must be implemented the following school year.
On any given day a teachers interactions with students can range from INEFFECTIVE to HIGHLY EFFECTIVE and ideally all teachers are continually learning and DEVELOPING.
Using a single standardized test score along with three to five classroom observations over the course of a 180-day school year is clearly an unreliable and INEFFECTIVE way to measure student learning and teacher quality.
Americans have been “sold” the Common Core by leaders who have carefully crafted and regulated the words, language, and narrative of the education reform movement. As Humpty Dumpty declared…
‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.’
‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you CAN make words mean so many different things.’
‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master—that’s all.’
Humpty Dumpty leaders with their penchant for doublethink rely on a litany of terms and  “educationese” to justify and sell their reforms to trusting parents using reinvented and EFFECTIVE teachers are continually learning and DEVELOPING | WagTheDog:

Policies on ethnic disparity awry compared to research :: SI&A Cabinet Report :: The Essential Resource for Superintendents and the Cabinet

Policies on ethnic disparity awry compared to research :: SI&A Cabinet Report :: The Essential Resource for Superintendents and the Cabinet:

Policies on ethnic disparity awry compared to research

A recent article published in Educational Researcher underscores what many of us have long suspected – that our measures for ethnic and linguistic disproportionality have discounted crucial factors leading us to erroneous, even damaging, conclusions.
The carefully constructed study suggests that when eligibility rates in high incidence categories are examined in a cohort with adjustments for covariates – such as socioeconomic status – minorities are not over-represented in special education but, in fact, are under-represented. The article flies in the face of the perspective that has been advanced by the U.S. Department of Education for almost a decade and, ironically, comes to light as the national discussion on race has intensified in the wake of the Charleston tragedy and Ferguson shooting.
In 2007 Alexa Posny, then Director of the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs wrote a memorandum to State Directors of Special Education saying, in part, “greater efforts are needed to prevent the intensification of problems connected with mislabeling minority children with disabilities; African-American children are identified as having mental retardation and emotional disturbance at rates greater than their white counterparts;…studies have found that schools with predominately white students have placed disproportionately high numbers of their minority students into special education.”
These statements take their cue from the 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act wherein various procedural and financial mechanisms were put in place to prevent and correct the disproportionate over identification of ethnic groups in special education.
The language in the law and Posny’s subsequent statements imply that special education has been used as a vehicle in an implicitly biased educational system to wherehouse children of color apart from the mainstream.
But the article, entitled, “Minorities Are Disproportionately Underrepresented in Special Education: Longitudinal Evidence Across Five Disability Categories” was posted online late last week, indicates the opposite conclusion. That is, that certain ethnic groups, when compared to the general population, have had not fully utilized the protections and supports offered through special education and that the disparity is due to socio-economic and environmental factors unrelated to race.
In other words, there is an equity issue but it has to do with lack of full access to specialized services rather than the use of those programs for segregation.
The results bring to the surface many of the other re-occurring issues about disproportionality and concomitant legal guidelines that have been part of an undercurrent of skeptical observation for years now.
One glaring contradiction, that reflects the findings in the aforementioned study, is that federal regulation of disproportionality only applies to over identification, not its equally evil twin, under identification. This willful neglect stands in contrast to federal regulations that require educational agencies to maintain a “comprehensive child find system.” The policy is even more glaring in light of the 2001 Compton Unified School District v. Addison decision by the Ninth Circuit Court essentially declaring that a failure to properly identify a child was equivalent to denial of a free appropriate public education.
Nevertheless, in 2012 the Education Department announced that it would no longer collect information about the underrepresentation of ethnicities in special education, the rationale, being in part, that it obscured the focus on overrepresentation, which, of course we now know, could be fallacious.

Diane Ravitch - Reign of Error - YouTube

Diane Ravitch - Reign of Error - YouTube:

Diane Ravitch is Research Professor of Education at New York University and a historian of education.

Diane Ravitch’s Blog is and has received more that 17 million hits in 30 months.

From 1991 to 1993, she was Assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander in the administration of President George H.W. Bush. She was responsible for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement in the U.S. Department of Education. As Assistant Secretary, she led the federal effort to promote the creation of voluntary state and national academic standards.

From 1997 to 2004, she was a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the federal testing program. She was appointed by the Clinton administration’s Secretary of Education Richard Riley in 1997 and reappointed by him in 2001. From 1995 until 2005, she held the Brown Chair in Education Studies at the Brookings Institution and edited Brookings Papers on Education Policy. Before entering government service, she was Adjunct Professor of History and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

She has lectured in Poland, the former Czechoslovakia, the Czech Republic, Romania, the former Soviet Union, Hungary, the former Yugoslavia, Germany, Japan, Nicaragua, and throughout the United States. Her lectures on democracy and civic education have been translated by the USIA into many languages, including Polish, Spanish, Lithuanian, Latvian, Russian, Belarussian, and Ukrainian. Her books have been translated into many languages, including Chinese, Arabic, Spanish, Swedish, and Japanese.

In 1989, she advised Teachers Solidarity and the Ministry of Education in Poland. In 1991, the Polish Government awarded her a medal for her work on behalf of Solidarity.

She was elected to membership in the National Academy of Education (1979); the Society of American Historians (1984); the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1985); and as the Eleanor Roosevelt Fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences (2002). She was selected as a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar in 1984-85, the first person chosen from the field of education studies. She was awarded the Henry Allen Moe prize in the humanities by the American Philosophical Society in 1986. In 1988, she was designated an “honorary citizen of the state of California” by the State Legislature in recognition of her contributions to the state’s history curriculum and its human rights curriculum. In 1989, she received the Wellesley College Alumnae Achievement Award. She was honored as a Literary Lion by the New York Public Library in 1992. The Library of Congress invited her to deliver lectures in 1993 in honor of the 250th birthday of Thomas Jefferson. She received the Leadership Award of the Klingenstein Institute at Teachers College in 1994 and the Horace Kidger Award of the New England History Teachers Association in 1998.

In 2004, she received the Leadership Award of the New York City Council of Supervisors and Administrators. In 2005, she received the John Dewey award from the United Federation of Teachers of New York City; the Gaudium Award of the Breukelein Institute; and the Uncommon Book Award from the Hoover Institution. In 2006, the Kenneth J. Bialkin/Citigroup Public Service Award was conferred on her.

In 2010, the National Education Association selected her as its “Friend of Education” for the year, and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges conferred its Charles W. Eliot Award on Dr. Ravitch. In 2011, she has been honored with the Outstanding Friend of Education Award from the Horace Mann League; the American Education Award from the American Association of School Administrators; the National Association of Secondary School Principals’ Distinguished Service Award; and the Distinguished Alumni Award from Teachers College at Columbia University. In June of 2011, she received the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.

A native of Houston, she is a graduate of the Houston public schools. She received a B.A. from Wellesley College in 1960 and a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 1975.

Diane Ravitch - Reign of Error - YouTube:

The Problem With 'D' Grades: Mediocrity in High School and Limited Prospects for College - The Atlantic

The Problem With 'D' Grades: Mediocrity in High School and Limited Prospects for College - The Atlantic:

The Problem With Ds

Why the letter grade should be banned from schools

“They sit there and blink. They approach sub-mediocrity,” says a former coworker when I ask her to describe her “D students.” She’s only partially joking.

Getting an F typically requires some combination of compulsive truancy, a keen distaste for holding a pen, and problems outside of school. An F leads to summer school or an online course, and unrepentant F students tend to drop out or head to an alternative school before long. Fs are a serious problem in education.

D students, however, often stick around and cause another serious problem: They may pass, but they learn close to nothing along the way. Plus, they have little chance of attending a four-year college out of high school. A D student may flake on at least one major assignment a semester but breezily make up minor reading quizzes two months after they were originally administered. Maybe he shows up—but only after sauntering in 10 minutes late. Maybe he doesn’t ask for help and casually breaks appointments for tutoring. Rarely reading and occasionally despairing (with a smile) that he “can’t understand the book,” the D student probably falls behind early and catches up late. But not too late to prevent that bad grade from morphing into a worse one—and not wholeheartedly enough to get the C or B he’s likely capable of earning. This D student knows exactly what he needs to do to avoid an F before grades are due.

If Ds are markers of adequacy that everyone recognizes as inadequate, doling them out seems illogical and cynical.

Fs are rare in my 10th- and 12th-grade public-school literature classes. While I would like for Ds to be rare, too, 18 percent of my students earned one by the end of the spring semester.

Unlike the few who got Fs, they received the same amount of credit on their transcripts as did anyone with an A, B, or C. They just probably won’t be going to a selective college (at least any time soon). In California, where I teach, state universities from Berkeley to Chico State don’t admit any student who got a D in a prerequisite core class, like algebra. And most reputable private colleges across the country set similar expectations.

As educators, politicians, pundits, and parents debate the logic of Common Core testing and deliberate how to best hold teachers accountable, inspire students, and improve educational opportunities for American kids, it seems The Problem With 'D' Grades: Mediocrity in High School and Limited Prospects for College - The Atlantic:

PRIVATIZED Substitute teachers angry with company

Substitute teachers angry with company:

Substitute teachers angry with company

RETIRED TEACHER Linda MacNeal is no longer a member of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, but yesterday she found herself back in the union's office to vent.

The school district's new system of placing substitute teachers had been introduced at a morning informational session, prompting frustration and anger among some teachers over a cut in compensation.

The new per-diem rates teachers would earn under Source4Teachers is "just insulting to me. And it says that [the company] doesn't value teachers," said MacNeal, who worked for the district for 34 years.

The School Reform Commission approved a three-year, $34 million contract earlier this month with the Cherry Hill firm Source4Teachers and moved on from their longtime partner, the PFT.

District officials say the move would save $2 million per year and increase the number of teachers in empty classrooms.

The PFT, meanwhile, has filed an Unfair Labor practice against the district and the SRC, claiming it did not bargain in good faith.

Source4Teachers, which will lease space inside district headquarters, "will pay the market rate" for substitute teachers, said district spokesman Fernando Gallard.

Company spokesman Owen Murphy said certified teachers, any grade, will be paid $90 per day; non-certified teachers, any grade, will be paid $75. And special-education positions pay the highest rate at $110 per day. Any certified teacher who takes a special-education position does not have to be certified in special education, Murphy said.

"We feel that the rates we are offering are comparable to neighboring school districts," he said.

Under the PFT contract, the substitute teacher daily rates were: $75 per day for certified teachers who had worked 22 days or less. After that, their daily rate shot up to $160; $209 to $239 per day for retired teachers, depending on their educational degrees and college credits; and $212 to $242 per day for retired special ed teachers. Non-certified teachers earned $47.63 for the first 22 days and then the amount increased to about $126 per day under the PFT contract.

Seventy-two percent of the PFT's 400 substitute teachers were paid at the higher rate, Gallard said.

Retired teacher Kenneth Schamberg says the district promised something else.

"They assured the teachers that their pay would be 'similar,' that was the word they used," Schamberg said. "Since when is a 61.9 percent pay cut similar?" He walked out of the morning meeting, in frustration, he said.

"I love what I do, but all of a sudden they're pulling the rug out from under us," he said.

Gallard said Source4Teachers will improve the 55 to 65


Sorry, Walmart: Charter Schools Won't Fix Poverty

Sorry, Walmart: Charter Schools Won't Fix Poverty:

Sorry, Walmart: Charter Schools Won't Fix Poverty

The Walton Family Foundation may not want to raise wages or lose tax breaks, but education reform alone can't reduce income inequality.

Last week, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and In the Public Interest released a highly critical report on the Walton Family Foundation’s K-12 education philanthropy, which ended with a call for increased transparency and accountability in the charter sector. The gist of the report is that the Walton Family Foundation—which has kick-started about one in four charters around the country—“relentlessly presses for rapid growth of privatized education options” and has opposed serious efforts to regulate and monitor fraud and abuse. While the foundation supports rapidly scaling up charter networks that have produced promising results, the AFT and In the Public Interest cite a 2013 Moody’s Investment Services report which found that dramatically expanding charter schools in poor urban areas weakens the ability of traditional schools to serve their students, forcing them to lay off teachers, increase class sizes, and cut programs to make ends meet.
A month earlier, Philamplify, an initiative of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP), published its own report on the Walton Family Foundation’s impact, and found that although they have achieved meaningful results through their environmental philanthropy, “an overreliance on specific market-based vehicles” hinders their ability to create “sustainable and equitable” improvements in education. Philamplify also criticized the Walton Family Foundation for “insulating itself among like-minded peers rather than connecting with the broader field.”
While the Walton Family Foundation did not return my request for comment, Education Week reported that their spokesperson, Daphne Moore, defended their commitment to high-quality schools. Education Week also cites Greg Richmond, the president of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA)—an organization that receives funding from the Walton Family Foundation—who argued that the foundation has long demonstrated a commitment to accountability and transparency.
This discussion is sure to continue over the coming months, but what was particularly striking was something in the Walton Family Foundation’s response to the Philamplify report—a statement that has been reiterated by the foundation many times over the past several years. Marc Sternberg, the foundation’s K-12 program director, said, “Education is the set of work we can support that will most directly end the cycle of poverty and change the trajectory of young people’s lives.”
The notion that education is needed to break the cycle of poverty is a popular mantra of the education reform movement. The problem is, it is simply not true at all. The most direct way to break the cycle of poverty is actually to give poor people more money, something that high-quality educations, even college degrees, do not in any way guarantee. So when it comes to the question of redistribution—an integral component to any comprehensive anti-poverty program—the political work of the Walton family deserves far greater scrutiny.

Waltons, Walmart, and Politics

The Walton family heirs own a majority of public shares in Walmart, the U.S.’s largest private employer, which easily makes them some of the richest people on earth. Today, the Walton family has more wealth than 49 million American families combined. The six Walton heirs together have a net worth of at least $148.8 billion.
The Walton family engages in quite a bit of political work outside of its environmental and education philanthropy—much of it to advance conservative legislative goals. In the 2014 electoral cycle, Walmart spent $2.4 million through its PAC and individual donations, and $12.5 million through lobbying. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Walmart was far and away the biggest big-box retail spender in the election cycle, and has been ranked among the top 100 political donors since 1989. Demos looked at the Walton family’s political contributions between 2000 and 2014 and found that their $7.3 million in campaign contributions heavily favored Republican candidates over Democrats.
Outside of political campaigns, Walmart employs an array of Washington, D.C., lobbyists to advocate on issues like labor, taxes, and trade. Up until May 2012, Walmart was a longtime member of the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which works to promote an ideologically conservative agenda around the country. Moreover Walmart has given millions to the Republican State Leadership Committee, the Republican Governors Association, and other organizations that push right-wing policies.
Their animus towards union and labor is no secret, and Walmart has fought Sorry, Walmart: Charter Schools Won't Fix Poverty: